Tag Archives: google

Ethnography and its uses in business

As we are becoming more of a mass customization and transformation-based economy, more and more business are looking to use ethnography in designing better customer experiences. In this article, Procter and Gamble, Google, and others are doing it.

For Google, it involves observing and videotaping how people search online.  A success story was when they observed how difficult it was to search for keywords for Chinese consumers.  A tool called “Google Suggest” was created, when a user types a few characters, the search engine suggests alternate or possible completed key terms.

For Procter & Gamble, Managers and even Senior Managers engage in “immersion research,” in order to spend time with consumers in their natural habitat – their home.  They try to understand what their customers’ aspirations, desires and needs are, as well as what the role of their products are in the consumers’ daily lives.  An example was when P&G launched a laundry detergent and it failed because of a lack of empathy for its Mexican consumers.  Using ethnography, a key insight was derived when they discovered the importance of seeing the laundry detergent’s foam to Mexican consumers, which their product lacked.

The case for developing empathy for customers is clear.  What are some methods of developing empathy for them?  According to this article, using ethnography to better understand the consumer is key.

In conducting an ethnography, watch their behavior around their natural habitat. What artifacts do they use?  How do they go about their daily chores? Why would the customers engage with a particular experience? How they go about engaging in this?

Pay close attention to the language they use.  People speak in metaphors.  Metaphors reveal much about the person’s attitudes and mood.  For example, some customers may view retirement as the beginning of a journey, and viewing everyday is living life to the fullest versus viewing retirement as the ending of a journey.  When conducting ethnography, try to videotape, voice record or even take photos.

When conducting these studies, there will be multiple personas that can be classified demographically and psychographically.  These can be utilized by two purposes.  One is to present these to the client or marketing department, so that the client and the marketing department understand who their target consumers are.  The other is to humanize the customers.  Give these personas names, behaviors and motivations, demographic information, identification of what keeps the consumer up at night, and statement about the person’s personality in their voice (e.g. “I’m a detail-oriented person, who appreciates and loves intricate designs”)

Currently, I’m involved in an ethnographic study.  Because of the economic downturn, many people are being laid-off.  My study is about what motivates and inspires people that are unemployed or under-employed while job searching.


What are some future ideas for web 2.0 applications?

As more websites are increasingly becoming more social and adopting web 2.0 technologies, what will happen next?  Currently, most of the websites that offer these technologies exist in silos.  For example, users may have friends on separate social and business networks.  I have friends on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Digg, Delicious, and StumpleUpon.  I need to login to each of those websites to connect with different friends.  What if I was able to engage with my friends anywhere on the web?


Yesterday, I had discussed about the usage of web 2.0 tools on the internet.  Today, I will discuss the future of social networks and the usage web 2.0 tools.


 Joe Kraus Interview

Wharton school of business interviews Joe Kraus, director of product management at Google.  This fascinating interview discusses how Google has developed a solution to enabling the web to become more social.  There are two pieces to the solution:



 The first piece is called OpenSocial, which is an open-source API for social applications across multiple websites.  Many of the social websites (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, etc.) that I described in my above example, have their own API platforms, and similar to Google OpenSocial all are open source development.  Google is striving to make OpenSocial the common API that can be utilized by most sites.



The second piece is called FriendConnect, which allows website administrators to utilize the gadgets made from the OpenSocial developer community.  The user can collaborate, share and engage with friends on whatever website they choose, as long as the website utilizes the FriendConnect tool.  The web user goes to any website that has the FriendConnect tool, logs in, and can select from his/her friends from a list that draws from the user’s network from social sites (MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, etc.).  The web user can invite these friends to participate in discussions, ratings, and other interactions on this website.  This is already somewhat similar with online communities, which on many websites, people do not know each other but share mutual interests.  Being able to combine existing social networks with online communites is key.  The web will become more social by users being able to connect with their friends at anywhere and at anytime.  The benefits from this application include: increasing web site traffic, being able to engage with the customers, customers are able to engage with their friends, and their friends are able to learn about the website.



So why is Google so interested in developing these two applications?

Google’s interest in these applications is to make the web better for both developers and users.  This will engage more people on the web, which in turn, makes the search engine more widely used.



Please see the below video for more information regarding the FriendConnect application:









What if Apple and Google teamed up?



Wouldn’t be great if you could use any computer anywhere in the world, and still have access to all your files and software applications?  The author, Nicholas Carr, believes that this is inevitable.  A strategic partnership between Apple and Google can make this into a reality.  Both Apple and Google are well-known for user-centric design.  Apple is masterful at front-end applications – graphic user interface and external design.  Google is a perfect partner for the back-end with its vast data centers, contextually-relevant ads and web-based applications. 



Apple could design PCs that merely consists of the CPU, LCD screen and a flash drive.  These PCs would be inexpensive and highly energy efficient because of its simplicity in design.  The hard drive and software applications would be available on the internet with Google providing the space and web applications.





In addition to its simplicity of design, which results in less moving parts, this would make this PC more reliable. It would be immune to viruses because the software and its storage centers are located on data centers on the internet.  Apple would generate revenue from these units through economies of scale.  Google would have contextually-relevant ads embedded with its applications.

Information as an asset





In an information age, where content is on demand, and advertising is now being dictated from the consumer to the advertiser, data is becoming an increasingly important resource as this article states.  In fact, data unlike tangible goods has an increasing margin of utility.  In other words, as data increases and becomes more readily available, it becomes increasingly more useful to the end user.  In advertising, the more data is available about the user, the easier it is to target them. 





This article uses Google as a key example.  Their business model revolves around the motto: “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful,” that is, enabling the user’s online experience easier which is facilitated by acquiring more data.  The main revenue generator for Google is their contextually-relevant ads that are suited to the user’s needs, which is based from their data warehouse.





The question that is posed is whether innovation on the internet can continue with Google’s dominant position for data accumulation.  In an earlier post, in business, especially online, there is a strong trend towards open-sourcing, this stimulates innovation.  The author, who is a Venture Capitalist, argues that, as products and services are increasingly adapting the open-source and peer review platform, data should also be open-sourced, too.  He mentions that most of the data generated are from users and their interactions with web services.  Once the users understand their contributions (in terms of data), they can control this input and drive innovation.

Google Insights for Search

Google has an interesting web application called Google Insights for Search, which enables the user, and especially marketers, to ascertain the geographical location of website usage.  For example, this page illustrates using Digg, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, YouTube and Skype as examples.  It shows by state the usage for those websites. This other link shows this data globally.  This data could be useful for marketers to tailor their advertising campaigns accordingly.

Is Google making us dumber?

The above link examines how internet users are becoming increasingly distracted and are looking for quick fixes when reading and writing.  Inside the Internet world, convenience is becoming more apparent.  Internet prose is becoming simpler, shorter and more to-the-point.  Text messages eshew complexity and embrace aphorisms. The internet’s influence is also making its presence known in other media, too.  Newspaper and magazines are apparently adapting the short and efficient manner of prose similar to the internet.

The author argues that google enables finding information bother quicker and more plentiful, it almost reduces the amount of “thinking” required to be resourceful.  He likens this experience as a metaphor – where a human is like a pancake – spread wide and thin.  In other words, people are increasingly have a wide scope/breadth of knowledge but are lacking in depth.
What do you all think of this article? Please share your comments and discuss.